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This painting is an outstanding example of the abstract elegance characteristic of Rogier's late portraits. Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, her air of self–conscious dignity suggests that she is a member of the nobility. Her costume and severely plucked eyebrows and hairline are typical of those favored by highly placed ladies of the Burgundian court.

The stylish costume does not distract attention from the sitter. The dress, with its dark bands of fur, almost merges with the background. The spreading headdress frames and focuses attention upon her face. Light falls with exquisite beauty along the creases of the sheer veiling over her head, and gentle shadows mark her fine bone structure. In contrast to the spareness of execution in most of the painting, the gold filigree of her belt buckle is rendered with meticulous precision. The scarlet belt serves as a foil to set off her delicately clasped hands.

Rogier excelled as a portrait painter because he so vividly presented the character of the persons he portrayed. The downcast eyes, the firmly set lips, and the tense fingers reflect this woman's mental concentration. Rogier juxtaposed the strong sensation of the sitter's acute mental activity to his rigid control of the composition and the formality of her costume and pose, presenting the viewer with an image of passionate austerity.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication Early Netherlandish Painting, which is available as a free PDF


Probably Leopold Friedrich Franz, Prince of Anhalt [d. 1817], Gotisches Haus, Wörlitz, near Dessau.[1] Probably Leopold Friedrich, Prince of Anhalt [d. 1871]; Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt [d. 1904];[2] Friedrich II, Duke of Anhalt, Gotisches Haus, Wörlitz, and Herzogliches Schloss, Dessau; sold 1925 through (Bachstitz Gallery, The Hague) to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[3] purchased December 1926 by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 30 March 1932 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien, Hôtel de Gouvernement Provincial, Bruges, 1902, no. 108.
Flemish and Belgian Art 1300-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1927, no. 33.
Loan Exhibition of Flemish Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1929, no. 8.
Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's 'Ginevra de' Benci' and Renaissance Portraits of Women, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2001-2002, no. 13, color repro.

Technical Summary

The panel is composed of a single board with vertical grain. There is an unpainted margin on all sides of the panel and a slight barbe at the edge of the painted surface. Incised lines at the edge of the painted surface were probably guidelines for the application of the ground. The painting is in excellent condition. It was cleaned about the time it left the Anhalt collection[1] and received a surface cleaning in 1980. There is a fine overall crackle pattern and some inpainting along the crackle. A few small, local losses on the lady's veil and kerchief, on her proper right sleeve, and to the left of her ear have been inpainted. There is some abrasion in the ear.

No underdrawing was made visible by infrared reflectography apart from a single stroke within the fur collar and parallel to its edge on the right side and another horizontal stroke in the little finger of the top hand. The lady's silhouette was originally even more slender than at present, since the thickly applied paint of the background extends into the area of the belt on either side. This change is visible in raking light, while the extreme slenderness of the original silhouette is evident in the x-radiograph.

[1] According to a note on Friedläat;nder's photograph of the painting, III.1926/Gereinigt Duveen Mellon," in Friedlander archive, R.K.D., The Hague.


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